I’m not sure when or in what context I first realized that I have long labia. Maybe it was that teasing comment from an ex boyfriend, oh, seven years ago. Maybe it occurred to me at some point when I was watching porn and noticed that mine looked different. Maybe it was in the shower, as I haphazardly shaved my pubes into just a tuft. It was absolutely before I got my first completely bare wax, though having a hand mirror suddenly placed between my legs — so I could inspect the results — certainly made the point hit home. It was definitely in the last 10 years, though I’ve only made it a part of my self-deprecating comedy routine in the last five. Hey, if you’ve got long labia, you might as well joke about it.
But to be honest, and maybe this isn’t a surprise, I’m actually kind of insecure about it. I want to feel good about the way I look and, for the most part, I do, in part because there is plenty of outside messaging that tells me my straight teeth, slender physique, clear skin, etc. is considered conventionally attractive. (I’m not saying you need to be/have these things to be “attractive,” just that these are the qualities we’re told since birth are attractive and can inform how we view ourselves. And being told you’re attractive is also not necessary to being/feeling attractive. I digress.) But the messages being sent about what makes for a pretty vulva are less obvious; with the exception of hair removal trends, there aren’t three-page articles in lady magazines touting how to make your vagina/vulva* look its best or hide its flaws. And yet I’ve always felt distinctly aware that my long labia were not an asset.
For starters, I’m straight and have therefore not spent a good deal of time looking at other women’s labias. Most of the ones I’ve seen have been in porn, and let me tell you, they are compact. If porn star vagina is like a fresh, unopened rose bud, my junk looks like the blossom that’s been sitting in a vase on your kitchen table for a week, where a slight draft sends the petals scattering. Do porn casting directors request crotch shots in addition to headshots? They must. There goes my second career!
I have seen a few real vaginas in the flesh and luckily, they made me feel less alone. I have a couple of friends who are just as eager to discuss their ladybusiness over bottles of wine, which resulted in a drunken labia comparison competition late one night. The particulars for judging such a competition were pretty simple — we dropped our drawers, pulled our flesh down to full extension and eyeballed it. I came in second. I’ve never been so excited not to win.
Not sure if you have long labia? Chances are you don’t because when you do you know. Usually it’s the inner labia — the labia minora — that makes for a fat monkey. Small-to-medium labia stay all neat and tidily stored within the folds of the outer labia (the labia majora); long labia cannot be contained! They dangle, like a chicken’s waddle. If you’re so inclined, you can tuck ‘em in, but they find their way out. Tricky tricksters.
I may be a feminist, but I am not immune to ridiculous body shame. Hell, I don’t even encourage dudes to go down on me. When an ex-boyfriend left me for another woman, not gonna lie, one of the thoughts that ran through my head was, I bet she has smaller labia than I do. I’ve written before about how I had to go to great lengths (sorry, pun) to become comfortable with my vagina. I still feel a little stressed every time I introduce it to someone new. Does it smell okay? Crap, I should have gotten a wax. What if he doesn’t know what to do with all this skiiiiiin and gives up? What if he think it’s ugly and never wants to see me again? Yeah, screw him, but oh my god, how embarrassing.
Aside from being teased about my labia by a longtime boyfriend — and by the way, I didn’t mind his teasing — no one I had ever slept with had remarked upon them. Maybe because they thought it would be rude? Or maybe they didn’t notice. Of course, I know intellectually I shouldn’t care what a guy thinks about the way my vagina looks; any guy who does care, who would have his attraction to me be negatively impacted by the way my vagina looks, is not worthy of getting near my lady petticoat again. But still.
If only having long labia resulted in better pleasure; alas, aside from getting in the way sometimes, they seem to make little difference in sexual enjoyment. They’re just there. You know how the fast food chain Wendy’s has square burger patties? That always bothered me because it’s like, what the hell am I supposed to do with the overhanging meat? Eat it, I guess, but it’s superfluous. Do I really need the extra corners of meat? Having long labia is sort of like that although I’m feeling a bit regretful of comparing my vagina to a fast food burger. But you get my point. I wish my long labia could be used for something besides being the punchline of a TMI joke at my own expense. Luckily, however, I love a TMI joke at my own expense, so in that sense, having long labia has always been worth it.
It turns out that long, large labia are having a bit of a moment. A new Tumblr blog called the Large Labia Project has been getting some attention for featuring user submitted photos of their own plump lady flowers, along with testimonials about the shame and, yes, pride they’ve felt about them. The blog’s founder writes that the blog all about “showing the beauty of large, long, thick, fleshy vulva.” Hell yes! I like the sound of that! For starters, vaginas are like snowflakes — no two are alike. While all of the vaginas on this site have medium-to-large labia, that’s basically all they have in common. Clicking through all the photos, it became incredibly clear how silly it is to worry that my vulva in particular would stand out as any weirder or uglier or even prettier than any other vulva. It is what it is; it’s a part of me. While I don’t think I’ll be submitting a photo of my labia anytime soon (not that I would tell you if I did), I commend those women who have for reminding me not so much that my vulva is beautiful — I’m not quite there yet — but that it is special. It is mine. And I wear it well.
* Just to be clear, anatomically-speaking, the word vagina refers to the inner canal, while vulva refers to the exterior. However, the term vagina has become the catch-all term used by many for the female genital area and I use it that way throughout the piece, interchangeably with the word vulva.